The Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (IATA: SJU, ICAO: TJSJ, FAALID: SJU) —Spanish: Aeropuerto Internacional Luis Muñoz Marín— (formerly known as Isla Verde International Airport/Aeropuerto Internacional Isla Verde) is a joint civil-military international airport located in Carolina, Puerto Rico, three miles (five kilometers) southeast of San Juan. It is the busiest airport in the Caribbean region by passenger traffic. Over 4 million passengers board a plane at the airport per year according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
The airport is owned by the Puerto Rico Ports Authority but managed by Aerostar Airport Holdings, a public-private partnership which was awarded a lease by the government of Puerto Rico to operate and manage the airport for 40 years. SJU is the second international airport to be privatized in the United States and its territories, and the only currently privatized airport in the nation. Taxis and rental cars can transport travelers. Named for Puerto Rico's first democratically-elected governor, the airport serves as a gateway to the Caribbean islands and sees about 8.5 million passengers each year.
Until 1955, the Fernando Luis Ribas Dominicci Airport was the main international airport of Puerto Rico. This is until the early start of the jet age that many of the airlines that served Puerto Rico were changing from propelled to jet aircraft, and Isla Grande's 4,000 foot runway at the time did not have the distance for jet planes to take off and land. Isla Grande's runway is now 5,542 feet in length. In 1951, Governor Luis Muñoz Marin authorized the construction of a modern airport with a runway long enough to land jet aircraft. In addition, the airport would be a major meeting point for tourism in Latin America, not only for passenger traffic, but also for air cargo. It would not serve only as an international airport, but also as the home of the Puerto Rico Air National Guard.
The airport opened on May 22, 1955. Located in the area known as Isla Verde. By the time of its construction it had only one runway (Runway 8/26), the old tower which today is on the top of the Airport Hotel, three terminals and 200 car parking space. In the late 1960s, construction of Runway 10/28 began and was finished by 1972. In 1985, Governor Rafael Hernández Colón renamed the airport Luis Muñoz Marín, Puerto Rico's first democratically elected governor. The airport served as a Caribbean hub for Pan Am, Trans Caribbean Airways, Eastern Air Lines, and a short lived focus city for TWA. It was also the hub of Puerto Rico's international airline, Prinair from 1966 until 1984, when Prinair went bankrupt. In 1986, American Airlines, along with American Eagle, established a hub in the airport to compete with Eastern Air Lines. American then ended hub operations due to flight capacity cuts and continued to operate a focus city until April 4, 2011. American Eagle service, operated by San Juan-based Executive Airlines with ATR-72 turboprop aircraft, was completely shut down on April 1, 2013 although American continues to serve the airport. In the past, the airport has been served by defunct airlines like Caribair (which was based in San Juan), ATA Airlines, and Northwest Airlines.
As of 2008-Today, the airport has been receiving major upgrades, including a new terminal (Terminal A), pavement and expansions, new light systems, press conference rooms, and new fast food franchises along its corridors. New airlines have begun operating from San Juan to other international routes and destinations.
Over $400 million was used to expand the airport facilities through 2011. Terminal A opened on June 6, 2012 and is occupied by JetBlue Airways.
As of 2013, Agustín Arellano, CEO of Aerostar Airport Holdings, LLC, operator of the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, announced major upgrades that have begun taking place. JetBlue's new Terminal A will also receive improvements.
Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport is the Island's main international gateway and its main connection to the United States. Domestic flights fly between Carolina and other local destinations, including Culebra, Mayagüez and Vieques. The airport offers rapid access to the San Juan district of Hato Rey, the island's financial district via the Teodoro Moscoso Bridge. Easy access to Old San Juan is obtained via the Baldorioty de Castro Expressway (PR-26).
Teodoro Moscoso Bridge connecting the city of San Juan to the LMM International Airport in Carolina
The Luis Muñoz Marín Airport has one main terminal building with four concourses and a separate terminal with one concourse. Because of renovations of Terminals B & C, Aerostar has relocated airlines to Terminals A & D until 2016.
On December 31, 1972, baseball star Roberto Clemente and his companions died when their DC-7 crashed soon after takeoff from Isla Verde during a relief flight bound for Nicaragua. Neither the bodies of the victims nor the plane's wreckage were ever found.
On June 27, 1985, American Airlines Flight 633 SJU-DFW with 257 on board, aborted take-off from runway 8 after a loud rumbling sound was hear by the crew as the DC-10-10 (N129AA) approached V1. Unable to stop the aircraft on the remaining runway, the aircraft stopped nose-first in the lagoon at the end of the runway. Nose gear tire blowout suspected. No fatalities and aircraft returned to service six months later after repairs. ()
On July 29, 1986, Douglas C-53D N27PR of Borinquen Air crashed into a lagoon on approach. The aircraft was on an international cargo flight to Golden Rock Airport, Saint Kitts and Nevis when the starboard engine failed shortly after take-off and the decision was made to return to Carolina. One of the two crew was killed, the other was seriously injured.
On March 1, 1989, Douglas C-49J N28PR of Borinquen Air ditched on approach following a failure of the port engine. Although the landing gear was retracted, the crew did not feather the propellor. This resulted in increased drag which made flight impossible. The aircraft was on an international cargo flight from Golden Rock Airport, Saint Kitts and Nevis.
On July 9, 1998, about 1007 Atlantic standard time, an Airbus Industrie A300B4-605R, N80057, registered to General Electric Aircraft Engines and operated by American Airlines, Inc. (AA), as flight 574, had a fire in the No. 1 engine shortly after takeoff from Luis Munoz Marin International Airport, San Juan, Puerto Rico. The airplane received minor damage. The captain, first officer, 7 flight attendants, and 215 passengers were not injured. Twenty-eight passengers reported receiving minor injuries during the post-landing emergency evacuation.
On September 24, 1998, – Trans-Florida Airlines Convair 240-13 (N91237) had an engine problem on take-off. It attempted to return to the airport, but lost altitude and was force landed in a salt water lagoon some 2 miles short of the runway. Though the aircraft was written off, the two crew and one passenger were uninjured.
On April 4, 2001, Douglas DC-3A N19BA of Roblex Aviation ditched in the sea after suffering a double engine failure while on a local training flight. Both crew escaped. Damage to the aircraft was described as minor.
On May 9, 2004, American Eagle Flight 5401, an ATR-72, crashed in San Juan, Puerto Rico after the captain lost control of the aircraft while landing. Seventeen people were injured, but there were no fatalities.
On Thursday, March 15, 2012, a cargo airplane operated by Jet One Express crashed near the airport, killing its two occupants. The plane, a Convair 440, went down at a lagoon after the pilot reported engine trouble, during a flight to St. Maarten.
Music group Menudo recorded a music video for their song "Claridad", in 1981 at the nearby Isla Verde Beach in Piñones. A Lockheed L-1011 aircraft is seen landing at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in the video.
The airport is seen in several scenes of action film Illegal Tender, where a Puerto Rican youngster flies to the Island from the continental United States several times.